Supreme Court refuses to block Texas abortion ban, agrees to hear two cases challenging the law

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“We are extremely disappointed that the court has left the law in force for the time being, forcing those who can afford to leave the state to access constitutionally protected abortion services and leaving others with no options. “

—Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights

After the decision of Whole woman’s health c. Hellerstedt Texas abortion case before the Supreme Court, Washington, DC, in June 2016. (Adam Fagen / Flickr)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice against a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks, but refuse block the law while it examines the case, leaving Texans without access to safe and legal abortion health care. The Court also OK to hear an appeal in another case brought by abortion providers. The court set pleadings in both cases on November 1.

Justice Sotomayor wrote a searing dissent to the Court’s refusal to prohibit the law:

“For the second time, the Court is seized with a request to prohibit a law enacted in flagrant disregard of the constitutional rights of women seeking abortion care in Texas. For the second time, the Court refuses to act immediately to protect these women from serious and irreparable harm…. These women will suffer personal harm by delaying their medical care and, as their pregnancy progresses, they may even be unable to obtain abortion care. Because every day that the Court fails to grant reparation is devastating, both to individual women and to our constitutional system as a whole, I disagree with the Court’s refusal to administratively stay the Fifth Order. circuit.

Last month, in a stunning 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court allowed Texas’ blatant abortion ban to go into effect while courts consider a court challenge on behalf of abortion providers by the Center. for Reproductive Rights. The Justice Department then filed a lawsuit against the Texas abortion ban.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin released a 113-page decision in the Department of Justice lawsuit that Texas law—SB 8—Is an unconstitutional violation of the right to abortion established by the Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade and Casey v. Family planning, which do not allow states to prohibit pre-viability abortion at 24 weeks gestation.

But 48 hours after Judge Pitman’s ruling, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling and ordered the law back into force. The Justice Department immediately filed an appeal asking the Supreme Court to bypass the appeals court – which has already rejected two requests to stop the law – to hear arguments in the case now and make a final ruling instead of an interim order. The Center for Reproductive Rights made a similar request in their case.

“We are extremely disappointed that the court has left the law in force for now, forcing those who can afford to leave the state to access constitutionally protected abortion services and leaving others with no options.” said Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“By once again refusing to block Texas’ horrific abortion ban, Supreme Court sends an alarming signal that it will stand idly by while our reproductive rights are violated, a reality Texans know too well afterwards having lived under the country’s most extreme abortion ban for almost two months, ”said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

When the law came into effect on September 1, most clinics in Texas stopped offering abortion after six weeks.

“The legal vacuum is excruciating for patients and staff at our clinic,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. “Lack of access to safe abortion care harms our families and communities and will have lasting effects on Texas for decades to come. We have had to turn away hundreds of patients since this ban took effect, and this move means we will have to continue to deny patients the abortion care they need and deserve.


“We have had to turn away hundreds of patients since this ban took effect, and this decision means we will have to continue to deny patients the abortion care they need and deserve.”

—Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health


Planned Parenthood reported an 80% drop in patient numbers at its Texas clinics in the two weeks after SB 8 went into effect. Patients, if they had the resources, began to visit the hospitals. Neighboring states to obtain abortion-related health care. The Guttmacher Institute estimates the law increased the average distance traveled to obtain an abortion 14 times, from 17 miles to 247 miles.

“This cruel law has had devastating consequences, the impact hitting marginalized communities the hardest,” Amiri said. “This is a terrible time, and we will do everything in our power to fight the attacks on our reproductive rights before it is too late. ”

SB 8 attempts to end the Constitution by empowering private citizens—even complete strangers-to sue anyone who helps another person obtain an abortion, rewarding them with $ 10,000 or more in attorney fees if they win a case against the sueded person. By delegating the power to enforce the law to individuals, Texas is attempting to circumvent the Constitution, as abortion rights are protected by the 14th Amendment, which applies to state action but not to private action.

Justice Sotomayor vigorously objected to the Court allowing this tactic to succeed. “Every day that SB 8 remains in effect is a day such tactics are rewarded. And every day the program succeeds increases the likelihood that it will be adapted to attack other federal constitutional rights,” Judge Sotomayor warned. .

On November 1, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to decide whether the court has the power to block the law before it comes into force, whether the United States government has the power to bring an action against the State of Texas to prevent its state court judges, state court clerks, other state officials, and private parties from enforcing SB 8, and whether to reinstate Judge Pitman’s order blocking the law .

“The Supreme Court’s action today brings us one step closer to restoring the constitutional rights of Texans and ending the havoc and heartbreak of this ban,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center. for Reproductive Rights. “We are extremely disappointed that the Court has left the law in force for the time being … However, we are confident that when the Court does finally rule in these cases, it will reject the State of Texas’ cynical ploy to boldly enact a ban. unconstitutional abortion. “

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